COLUMBIA, S.C. — Sweaty from warmups, Jordan Sherit paced back and forth in the Florida Gators locker room. Ejected on the final drive against Vanderbilt for targeting, Jordan Sherit was forced to sit out the first half of the South Carolina game. He went about the game like normal, warming up with the team before the game but when it came time to run out of the tunnel — the prize every Saturday after a long week of practice — Sherit had to stay behind.
“I did the warmups. Came in and took my shoulder pads off,” Sherit said. “I still had my pants and my cleats on. I was just pacing in the locker room, man.”
Sherit was lucky enough to have a television in the locker room so he could watch the game, but when Alex McCalister went down with a foot injury, being rendered a cheerleader quickly became agitating. His teammates joined him in the locker room and then it was time to get ready to play.
The Gamecocks received the ball and Sherit quickly made an impact. The rush lineman broke into the backfield and recorded a tackle on the first play of the second half. The redshirt sophomore finished the third quarter with three tackles, 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for a loss.
“I was joking with coach Rumph that maybe that should be a thing every week, just during the first half sit me down,” said Sherit. “I definitely had a lot of energy. I wasn’t tired. It was good to come out there and help the team.”
Sherit immediately replaced McCalister and the Florida defense held South Carolina to minus nine yards in the second half — the second time the Gators have held a team to negative yards in the third quarter of a game this season (New Mexico State).
“They’re, to me, they’re the best defense you’ll see and I think they’ve proved it week-in, week-out,” senior tight end Jake McGee said.
For a change, the Florida Gators offense did the defense a solid, winning the time of possession battle by almost 20 full minutes.
“We get so bored now,” cornerback Jalen Tabor jokingly said when asked what the defense does when the offense is able to stay on the field for so long. “We get so bored. Last year we were on the field [so much]. Now since they’re moving the ball it makes it a lot easier.”
The Florida offense was able to convert a season-high 11 third down attempts on Saturday and was 12-of-21 converting on third and fourth downs combined. That ability to move the chains helped the Gators offense bleed the clock and keep the defense rested.
“I told them at the beginning of the season, a great defense should be sitting their tail on the sideline, because some of the time your best defense is your offense taking care of the ball,” Jim McElwain said. “I think we had a couple drives in the double figures, you know, that took some time off the clock. That’s how we’ve got to play.”
South Carolina rebounded with two big drives in the fourth quarter to make the 24-14 game feel a lot closer than it actually was. “It’s hard to play that good defense for all four quarters,” Jalen Tabor said. “I guess you can say they just got a play or two and we did buckle down those two drives.”
Florida’s offense responded with a late touchdown and Quincy Wilson’s interception sealed the Gamecocks’ fate. Florida forced two turnovers on the day and held South Carolina to just 4.1 yards per play. The start was much better than the finish for the defense, but for a team that has looked to find ways to stay motivated throughout an unexpected season through unchartered waters, the fourth quarter will leave a sour taste in their mouths and fuel them this week in practice.